I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like Islands of Abandonment before. Scottish author-journalist Cal Flyn takes the reader on an exhilarating and awe-inspiring journey to some of the world’s most interesting abandoned places. For various reasons the humans who once inhabited them have left. From Chernobyl to Detroit and polluted New Jersey shorelands and WW2 battle fields of France, Flyn shows us in colourful detail and gripping, well-researched prose how nature is returning and reclaiming these places despite the heavy toll it has paid due to human activity.
One might come to this book for its ‘ruin-porn’ or a type of dark tourism but you’ll soon discover some incredible and crucial facts about our planet, nature and biodiversity and the issues we are facing driving our actions in sustainability. It’s also hopeful in a way that none of the dialogue around this topic is today, showing that the answers for our future are already in nature which has immense, unimaginable power through ever present ecosystems, adaptability and evolution. The amount of carbon being sequestered through forests naturally forming on abandoned farmland in the former USSR is incredible.
I love how Flyn weaves in the plight of humans, their wellbeing and our dependence and connectedness with nature when alongside the parados that nature would do better off without us. That’s probably the most challenging thought I’m left with at the end of the book – how in reality we as developers in the built environment can create positive impact when even after repurposing buildings and places, they have a Lifecyle which will eventually come to an end.
Highly recommended… although don’t take my word for it. As a former Radio 4 Book of the Week Islands of Abandonment is now racking up awards and plenty of good reviews.